Friday, February 19, 2010

The science of winterizing a fig tree

From the NY Times:

As long as there have been immigrants from Greece and Italy in Astoria, there have been fig trees — they dot virtually every block from Ditmars Boulevard to 36th Avenue, between the East River and Steinway Street, in the neighborhood’s southern European quadrangle. The trees are native to the Mediterranean region, where winters are decidedly milder than in New York, but the fig trees of Astoria, like true New Yorkers, have proved resilient.

The immigrants planted fig tree roots they had smuggled from the places they left behind, and then cared for the trees as if they were part of the family, carefully wrapping them in the winter to protect them from the cold.

From November until maybe April, the trees look like hastily made packages of plastic and duct tape, and while they were once a common sight, they are a rare find these days: people have grown too old, too busy or too tired to carry on the tradition.

From a scientific perspective, covering a fig tree in the winter has more to do with protecting it from changes in temperature, which can be more harmful than the cold itself, said Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture and living collections at the New York Botanical Garden. Rainwater can seep into a tree’s roots and cells, and if the water freezes, it can rupture the tree’s vascular connections and potentially kill it, he said.

There are two ways to protect a fig tree from winter weather. One is to bury the tree branches, a strenuous days-long process that requires slowly bending the trunk. The other is to wrap it and perhaps place a garbage can on top of the tree for extra protection. It is the more popular and easier method, but can still be time-consuming.


georgetheatheist said...

How come the immigrants had to "smuggle" the roots in?

Anonymous said...

Now that's one of the good things to see on Queens Crap. Do the trees bear fruit?

You are supposed to declare plant parts that you're bringing into America. Declaring that you're bringing plants means you'll be at least questioned by the customs officer. If they inspect your luggage, they'll most likely throw away the tree roots.

Georges said...

The immigrants? Are they not citizens or holders of green cards?

It seems today the term immigrant is commonly and incorrectly used to describe illegal people who broke laws to enter the country and break laws living here.

The term immigrant creates a more palatable veneer on people who are otherwise criminal and undeniably illegal.

Anonymous said...

This is a favorite theme of reporters, because it reinforces the ethinic paradise and quaintness of Queens.

Tearing down 150 year old homes?

An out of control club scene that favors Eurotrash from Long Island?

Hard faced cafe owners airconditioning the sidewalks?

Illegal conversions that are almost taken as a community as of right?

A shabby community of absentee landlords?

Scores of mysterious empty hookah launges that drive away non-Arab tenants as well as business from Steinway Street?


Disdain for creativity?

Viewing their property as a goldmine damn the impact thier behavior has on the community and their neighbors?

Naw, we don't want to work the reporters say. Can't do THOSE stories.

The thing that ticks me off is these are the people that reelects the machine, who shadowy little social clubs are the recipients of all the politicans funds sucking any energy and creativity out of that community.

Soccer games on a brownfield? Italian nights at Athen Square?

Fun Fun Fun

Anonymous said...

Smuggled plant material can bring in serious pests and plant disease. Examples of major agricultural damage from these unwanted pests include the Longhorn Beetle presently destroying most trees in the United States and the woolly adelgid which only destroys Hemlocks.

These join a pantheon of ecological disasters caused by introduced species including the gypsy moth, introduced in a vain attempt to create an American silk industry and pest birds such as the starling and house sparrow which displace native birds like bluebirds from their nests.

Queens Crapper said...

Not to mention this.

georgetheatheist said...

These Astoria fig trees have been around for 3 or 4 generations. You mean to tell me there was ecological awareness of diseased flora 100 years ago? There was agricultural inspection on Ellis Island?

Klink Cannoli said...

"The immigrants planted fig tree roots they had smuggled from the places they left behind,..."

The author, Fernanda Sontos, who is neither Greek nor Italian (she was born in Brazil), was simply duped into believing the "grower's myth." The secret of the grower's myth is held with utmost pride. Stories of smuggled bulbs, seeds or using special soil additives and techniques, etc. are part of the magic of growing a fantastic fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

In reality and in practice, growers find it much easier and have better chances when purchasing fig tree starters from local nurseries. Most indeed are imported.

Unknown said...

I got lazy this year and didn't cover mine. I hope it holds up.

Queens Crapper said...

You might want to read the first amendment of the United States before you comment again, troll.

Queens Crapper said...

(Not you, Roberto)

Detective McNutty said...

I haven't covered my fig tree for a couple winters now. They hold up fine as long as you don't shovel snow on top of it. Sometimes it may seem the tree is dead if it doesn't flower by May or June but if the roots aren't damaged it should grow back. You could also cover the base of tree with a few feet of dirt, I found that is just as good as covering.

I agree that buying fig trees from local nurseries is so much better, they are usually much hardier than those smuggled. So if your tree dies just by locally.

Babs said...

This is a wonderful story.

I enjoy gardening myself and make it a point to go and see some of the finest gardens from all over the state.

I am always amazed that many times the most beautiful gardens are on the smallest lots.

Astoria's tiny frontyards are a great source of beautiful or prized specimen trees (such as the fig) and antique rose bushes.

It is not unusual for immigrants to bring the seeds of their family's best tomato plant -

Our most popular flowers - tulips, marigolds, lilies, peonies - were all brought from other countries many years ago - and the bulk of which was brought over by Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson when they returned from their numerous trips to Europe.

Joe said...

Do the trees bear fruit ?
Yep, as long as you keep the squirrels and illegals living in the woods off them.
I have 10 of these in Mattituck.
Most harvest time there are plenty of acorns falling so the squirrels go after those first.
I placed have some use electrical wire around them along the ground and with a neon sign transformer and 1 meg ballast resistor.
..takes the urge right out !

Its a real pain to cover them for winter.
I use black tar paper it keeps in the heat so come spring they "pop out" faster

georgetheatheist said...

Joe, you put Johnny Appleseed to shame. Zap those varmints! I must have caught about 5-6 squirrels last Fall who wanted to nest in the big tree in my back yard. I used the Hav-a-Heart wire trap to transport them elsewhere; I'm not a licensed electrician.

georgetheatheist said...

BTW, the more I look at the post's picture it reminds me of the Lilliputians putting a condom on Gulliver.

Klink Cannoli said...

Mattituck Joe wrote:
"I placed have some use electrical wire around them along the ground and with a neon sign transformer and 1 meg ballast resistor.
..takes the urge right out !"

Crahahaha! Now that's good ol' ingenuity!

I'd imagine they taste like something pretty close to rabbit.

Klink Cannoli said...

Er, the squirrels, not the illegals.


-Joe said...

Taste like rabbit ?

Hmmmm----Would have to ask the illegals living in Beneps parks or Ted Nugent

KG2V said...

Yes, if you debone the squirrel and the rabbit, and prepare it the same way, I dare you to tell them apart

Garbage can? Seems like you see more 5 gal pails.

When my pairents bought their house in the 1950s, the previous owners had a fig tree, and part of the contract was that they got to remove and take the tree with them. Dad was glad, as, althought he liked figs, he always thought the trees were too much work

Anonymous said...

There was a time when a good shot was someone handy with a squirrel rifle.

Ah those were the days.

Joe said...

Tastes like chicken ?
I wonder if I could fry them with my beam and SB-220.
This way the illegals may quit trying to steal my chickens and BBQ grills.

KG2V said...

You playing in the contest this weekend (I use a sb-230 myself - only 600w)?

You have me at a disadvantage - You know my call - Your's

Klink Cannoli said...

KG2V wrote:
"Yes, if you debone the squirrel and the rabbit, and prepare it the same way, I dare you to tell them apart."

Words of a hunter.

Joe and KG2V wrote:
-"I wonder if I could fry them with my beam and SB-220."
-"(I use a sb-230 myself - only 600w)"

Heathkits? Why I do believe there are Hams in the house.

Most anything with a heater, grid and plate warms my heart... and my shop.

KG2V said...

Hams? What gave you the 1st clue? (User ID = Call)

I know there are a few ham lurkers around (Bill, if you still read the board - Hi!!)

Anyway - for any hams reading - Tomorrow is the Queens County ARES meeting - 2:00pm at Elmhurst General , rm A1-15

Klink Cannoli said...

KG2V wrote:
Hams? What gave you the 1st clue? (User ID = Call)

That was the second clue. Heathkit amp models were the first.

Not much of a radio man myself. My interests lie in the lower frequency range towards audio applications. Although it's nice to see operators keeping it alive.

The Queens Crapper blog surprises me again.

Joe said...

I don't participate in those contests. To many nasty old geezers talking down to the newer people.
Then you have your no code EX CBers playing with the Rice toys, most these guys cant even fix there own radios !

Besides-- After being one of 200 pushed out the windows at NBC I work weekends playing Bass in a band for extra $$

Dont push that SB-230 (600 W PEP max) those small convection cooled tube cant take it been obsolete for 25 years.
You then have to convert it to use a GI7B tube.

I have a SB-101 line, ,Collins KWM-2, R-390, Signal One CX11A and some other stuff including the actual SB-301 receiver and "extra IF board" used in the movie "Frequency".
For the movie they simple stuck a mic in the headphone jack.

I don't publish my call sighn I have too much stuff in the house.

KG2V said...

I'm not much of a CW guy, but what the heck - no, I'm not playing

NBC, eh? I just got caught in the last round at ABC - and there is a bunch more about to happen over there in the News Division

I know the tube is totally obsolete on the 230. My thought - I bought the amp for a whopping $200. If I do eventually kill it, oh well - sell what's left for parts, and buy some new - either something Ameritron or an Alpha (if I'm working)

Feel free to contact me off list - call@league

Joe said...

Caught in the last round at ABC.
Nothing new from Disney, Like GE, Universal the top brass doesn't want anybody who has a brain or asks questions.
All these company's are owned by corporations who want everybody stupid like the mayor does with schools.

Its apparently worked.
Look at the crap on prime time TV, those are all trained extras and actors on all those shows.

Like the dating game in the 60's the actors simply don't carry SAGs cards or shoot on union sets so everybody can commit this fraud for ratings.
Yet every night (including voting nights) 100 million sheep find this fraud entertaining enough to place it above important responsibility.

Take a good look at those fig tree's people.
In 20 years you wont see them anymore.
PEOPLE will be the watered and fed fruits & vegetables

Klink Cannoli said...

Ex-post house guy here. TV, Ad and Records. Studio names withheld to protect the innocent. Left that sordid industry in 2002 after 15 years.

Done the gigin' scene since I was 14. $100 weekend gigs just doesn't lay the bread on the table.

Feel your pain and frustrations.

NOS valves: Check out Richard's Brooklyn hole. Ask if you don't see an EIMAC 8873 listed.

Joe said...

Been buying from Rich for years. With all the great shops around Canal street gone Rich and Surplus Sales of Nebraska are perhaps the last great source for "the good stuff" aside hunting on Ebay.

KG I took my CW Novice in 1973 and had my General two years later when I was 16.
Had a part time job at Heathkit on 45st getting kits working and doing alignments.
It was a great company but most of the stuff post 1975 became total crap for the cost. Loads of design flaws and bugs.
That SB-104 and those horrible cheap plastic solid state scopes took them out.